Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present:
Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking
Before You Bake
Demystifying Vegan Baking
To someone who’s never done much cooking, baking can seem a bit mysterious, the oven actingas a transformation chamber for unfamiliar doughs or liquids or whatever lumpy thing to afinished product that looks, smells, and tastes like the comforting treats we know well. Sincebaked treats light up that nostalgic part of our brains, it can seem like messing with traditionalmethods will make things turn out wrong. I contend that there are some ingredients that we’rebetter off avoiding completely. They’re not necessary for baking, and they’re especially notnecessary for us: milks, creams, eggs, all these heavy products made from animals don’t justharm the animals that are used to produce them, they harm humans with cholesterol, saturatedfat, hormones, antibiotics, engineered genes, pesticides, diseases, and even heavy metals.Animal agriculture is the single greatest cause of atmospheric pollution, deforestation, andwater contamination on the planet, and it all happens because we humans keep buyingproducts that take incredible amounts of resources, products subsidized with taxpayer money,that we don’t need and are just awful for us. It’s not hard to opt out of all that awfulness, andmake our hearts feel sweet. It’s an even sweeter deal for us when there are delicious ways tocook that don’t involve making anyone, human or not, suffer just for our momentary diningpleasure.
The Binding Question: Eggs and Egg Alternatives
The most common question that comes up with vegan baking is how exactly to account for eggsin items that might usually contain them. The reason people have used eggs in baking is simple:they are used to provide structure and binding when cooked. Let’s think about a cake: Theprotein in the eggs binds with the flour and other ingredients, and then as the temperatureincreases while baking, the whole mixture rises. When moisture drops and the internaltemperature increases enough, the proteins harden and hold the spongy texture that’s familiarwith cake, even after the temperature drops. The important thing to know is, it’s not just eggsthat can provide this binding effect. There are plenty of reasons not to use eggs in your baking,not the least of which is that a chicken endures nightmarish conditions to produce each andevery egg, even for so-called “free range” or “organic” eggs.There are simple alternatives for just about every baking application. These alternatives cost lessthan eggs, aren’t unhealthy (and in fact are *very* healthy), and don’t have the environmentalimpact of chicken eggs. Another benefit you might not notice until you try some baked itemswithout eggs, is that baking with eggs (or butter!) gives foods a smell that can conflict with theintended flavor. Vegan bakeries keep doing great on those Food Network bake-off shows and ina way they have an unfair advantage: non-vegan bakers keep using eggs,
It’straditional to use them, so that’s what they do. Eggs add a tiny bit of sulphur smell and flavor tothings (there’s even a spice called “black salt” used in India to make things taste eggy, which is just sulphur-infused salt). A single egg yolk contains 210 milligrams of cholesterol.There are many egg alternatives that work great for different applications. The ones I like to usethe most often are flax meal and silken tofu. Sometimes I’ll try a starch mixture, especially if Iwant something cakey. Super-simple “egg” recipes: